Of course, we all know where the Médoc is located – in the iconic French region of Bordeaux. Until recently, though, I was unaware of the Crus Bourgeois du Médoc, an area with a rich history, diverse terroir, and surprisingly affordable, consistently delicious wines. I was fortunate to be invited to participate in a live twitter chat with noted wine educator, Wendy Narby, five representatives from Crus Bourgeois du Médoc and twenty journalists and bloggers.
We were reminded yet again that wine lovers are able to find budget friendly wines in Bordeaux without compromising the quality to which we are accustomed. As each of five wines (sent as samples) were swirled and sipped, I discovered fascinating insights about the beautiful region, its distinctive wines, and the proactive efforts towards oenotourism. This pocket of Bordeaux is approachable in more ways than just its wine!
Bordeaux boasts some of the greatest wines, restaurants and natural beauty found anywhere in the world (the region is UNESCO heritage listed). Now more than ever, chateaux are starting to open up their doors to visiting guests and are giving visitors a through the looking-glass view of what goes on inside the secretive world of France’s most famous wine region. From local’s-only dining experiences to personal winemaking and environmentally sustainable harvest workshops, innovative oenotourism is a big reason why the region is on top of everyone’s to-do list. Crus Bourgeois du Médoc
In essence, every wine lover has the opportunity to discover reasonably priced wines from first-rate producers in stunning Bordeaux. I encourage you to click on the link to the Chateaux (see below) in order to explore how each offers an exceptional experience in hospitality, food, and wine to those who want to visit the region. The producers in the twitter chat remarked again and again that “the doors are always open” – they’re waiting for us!
The History of Crus Bourgeois du Médoc
The Crus Bourgeois dates back to the Middle Ages when bourgeois were inhabitants of the “bourg” of Bordeaux, a town of merchants and craftsmen. While ruled by England, the bourgeois had many privileges including an exemption from taxes on the sale of their wines both locally and abroad. By the fifteenth century, the bourgeois of Bordeaux had purchased prime properties in the region and the name Crus des Bourgeois was acquired.
Although the French revolution revoked many of their privileges, the Crus Bourgeois continued to play an important role in the wine market. Later, the 1855 Classification of Crus Classés, or Classed Growth was developed. Emperor Napoleon III requested a classification system for France’s best Bordeaux wines that were to be ranked according to a chateau’s reputation and trading price – at that time, both were directly related to quality. Not all Crus Bourgeois chateaux were included in this classification; in 1932, the first Cru Bourgeois classification list of 444 estates was developed by the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce and Chamber of Agriculture.
Fast forward to 2010. In that year, the traditional Crus Bourgeois du Médoc description was kept but with the creation of a “rigorous quality procedure”. The quality assurance is open to all Medoc vineyards authorized to produce wine in one of the eight Médoc AOCs: Médoc, Haut- Médoc, Listrac-Médoc, Moulis, Margaux, Saint-Julien, Paullac, and Saint- Estèphe. Please click here for more detailed information, if you’re so inclined.
Ultimately, the members of this family, the largest in the Bordeaux region, share the same ambition: the defense of the traditional “Cru Bourgeois” classification, in a world in which the preservation of expertise in the creation of quality has become a symbol of luxury. As a result of their selection criteria and positioning in terms of price, the Crus Bourgeois are ideally suited to today’s markets and the requirements of increasingly demanding consumers. Crus Bourgeois du Médoc
A Selection of Wines from Crus Bourgeois du Médoc
After a meticulous process, (including an eligibility visit of the property, blind tasting of a representative selection of the wines, a scoring by a jury of professional tasters, and more) a wine that “obtains a score greater than or equal to the representative sample becomes “Cru Bourgeois”. Inclusion in the list is awarded annually and indicates a mark of quality in production and final product as opposed to the reputation of the chateaux. The lists are published about two years after the vintage; the wines tasted during our virtual twitter chat were from the just-released and highly regarded vintage year, 2014. As one producer remarked, the 2014 vintage is like a “breath of fresh air” in Bordeaux.
A rich blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot cultivated on gravel and limestone soil comprised the exceptional wine from Château Tour Castillon Médoc France ($21). I noted a fresh bouquet of ripe cherries, touch of smoke, and minerality on the nose. The palate burst with mouthwatering acidity, integrated but persistent tannins, red fruit, and a long, satisfying finish.
I opened the bottle from Château La Haye Saint-Estèphe France ($19) about an hour prior to my first swirl and sip. Oh my! Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and a bit of Malbec were aged for 16 months in French oak. Rich red fruit, blackberries, blueberries, dark juicy plums, and glorious spice were a few of the aromas wafting from the glass. My palate was equally impressed with more spice, notes of tobacco and herbs, mouthwatering acidity and pronounced tannins leading to a lingering earthy, fruit forward finish.
Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc grapes, organically grown in 35-year old vineyards on sand and gravel soil, comprised the Château Meyre Haut-Médoc France ($19). Spice was the driving element of this beauty…I craved a barbecue sandwich with each sip of this balanced, textured wine with a persistent fruit finish.
Finally, the Château Moulin à Vent Moulis en Médoc France ($17) presented mesmerizing aromas of tobacco, vanilla, chocolate and dried red flowers. Brilliant acidity and defined tannins framed structured elements of red fruit, spice, and cocoa. The mouthfeel was smooth, the finish was long, and I was duly impressed…
Why Consider Wines from Crus Bourgeois du Médoc?
Besides the obvious answer (the wines from Crus Bourgeois du Médoc are important elements of Bordeaux’ heritage), I was impressed with the region’s diversity…and unity. Although the vineyards share the same region and history, each has its own character and “offers the consumer something different”. Many of the producers and winemakers have deep roots in the Médoc, but others are from different regions or countries. Each brings to the table (and to the glass) a variety of perspectives regarding winemaking and more.
Then again, I was more than surprised and pleased at the cost of the wines I tasted during the chat. And for those who desire to visit Bordeaux? The area of Crus Bourgeois du Médoc is the trip we’ve always wanted. Approachable wines, regional food, and genuine hospitality in an exceptional location are waiting for us.